Canoeing on the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary

An early summer morning on the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary has to be one of the most tranquil times of the day. The gentle lapping of the water combines with the beauty of “The Bag” – a wide stretch of water near Kingsbridge. Add wading birds and wild fowl and the picture becomes complete. This is an area that teems with wildlife – the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary is a nature reserve – and its hidden coves contrast with the occasional shipwreck. All in, a great place for a day’s paddle.

The Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary is tidal, so all river trips need careful planning. The area around Salcombe is steeped in history. Its castle dates from the 16th century and still remains relatively intact, managing to survive inevitable erosion and a few sieges or two. Lime kilns are visible as well as the remnants of a sawmill near Waterhead Creek, proof of its industrial heritage.

Mid-high tide is the best time to set out by canoe. This is when the whole estuary becomes accessible, allowing you to paddle out in search of its many sheltered creeks and coves. Among them is Bowcombe Creek. This not only gives superb views of the estuary, but is also a centre for other watersports including kayaking, sailing and SUP.

If you’re a newcomer to canoeing, North and South Sands are ideal for improving your skills. These bays are more sheltered with a gradual drop-off, thus allowing you to build your confidence before venturing further out. As with all watersports, keeping a close eye on the weather conditions and tides is all important.

For some of the best canoe tuition, Singing Paddles’ instructors and guides have over 25 years’ experience to count on. Age is no barrier, nor skill, and as long as the weather holds, they operate daily throughout the year. Based at Newbridge, they are well worth checking out. For details, visit or call 07754-426633.

The village of Frogmore, between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth, is an ideal base for exploring this part of South Devon. The Globe Inn, with its friendly hospitality and home cooking, offers four-star accommodation in eight delightful rooms. They offer a full English breakfast with packed lunches on request. This traditional village inn retains its rustic charms with open fireplace and stone walls in the restaurant. The Globe Inn offers free parking and free WiFi is available. For further details, call 01548-531351 or visit

For bed and breakfast accommodation, try the Burton Farmhouse, near Hope Cove. Families with small children are welcome in this delightfully appointed setting close to the sea. The farmhouse nestles in more than 300 acres of glorious Devon countryside, so relaxation is guaranteed. They offer 12 en suite rooms as well as a family room, and fully licensed lounge bar. To start your day, a full four-course breakfast is available as well as an optional evening meal. For more information, call 01548-561210.

With National Trust guided canoe tours across all seasons, historic ruins and wonderful scenery, it’s no surprise the estuary offers plenty of variety for the keen canoeist. There’s more than three miles to discover, so why not take the plunge?

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